Top 100 Baseball Blog

Monday, June 17, 2019

Jeff Schaefer: Translating Versatility and Hard Work Into a Major League Baseball Career

Jeff Schaefer wasn’t the biggest, fastest or the strongest, but he was versatile and worked hard for everything he gained on the baseball diamond. Where many others failed to make the major leagues, he parlayed the gifts he did have into a career that stretched 14 seasons and included parts of five years at the big-league level.

Following a distinguished career at the University of Maryland, where he hit a combined .333, Schaefer was selected in the 12th round of the 1981 draft by the Baltimore Orioles. A second baseman, the right-hander gradually started playing more around the infield and occasionally in the outfield. However, he was a light hitter without top-end speed and in the winter of 1986, he was purchased by the California Angels, having reached Triple-A, but no further.

After one year in the Angels’ organization, he bounced to the Los Angeles Dodgers and then the Chicago White Sox, where he finally received his first major league chance in 1989. He appeared in 15 games for the South Siders, collecting a lone single (against Rob Murphy and the Boston Red Sox) in 10 at-bats, with a stolen base.

Continuing his experience of being a journeyman, he signed with the Seattle Mariners that offseason and became an important cog off their bench over the next three seasons, hitting a combined .208 with two home runs and 20 RBIs in 204 games (just 341 at-bats), playing second, shortstop and third base.

After eight at-bats with the Oakland Athletics in 1994, his professional playing career was over. He finished with a .203 career batting average but was valued for his ability to fill out a roster by being hungry and versatile.

Keep reading for more from Schaefer, as he shares some memories from his playing career.

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: Thurman Munson. He was grit. He was a gamer. He was the Captain.

What did you do to celebrate after being drafted and signing?: Nothing overly special; dinner with family and friends.

How difficult is it to persevere and keep fighting to make the major leagues after nine years in the minors?: Not as tough for me as it may have been for others. I loved playing the game. Yes, I wanted to be in the big leagues sooner, but I was just happy playing the game for as long as someone would let me.

What do you remember most about your major league debut (against the Oakland Athletics)?: Striking out... But I took three man hacks. The adrenalin was rushing through my veins like I never felt before

As someone who played with them for years, how would you compare the hitting skills of Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martinez?: Two different hitters completely. Edgar was a self-made professional hitter and Junior was a hitter made by God.

What is your favorite moment from your baseball career?: My first start ever was in Yankee Stadium. I grew up a Yankees fan and Jeff Torborg saved my first start for Yankee Stadium, so my family and friends could experience it with me.

Which of your teams was your favorite, and why was that?: Seattle. I knew I was playing with greatness...They just needed time. Griffey Jr, Edgar Martinez, Omar Vizquel, and Randy Johnson.

Who was your favorite coach or manager, and what made them your choice?: I played for Joe Maddon in Double-A and Charlie Manuel in Triple-A...Jeff Torborg will forever be favorite. He gave a kid who spent eight-and-a-half years beating the bushes his first shot.

What, if anything, would you have done differently in your baseball career?: Nothing. I beat the odds. No one slated me as big-league player. I was an organizational guy in just about everyone's mind except my own.

What have you been up to since your playing days ended?: Regional Director of USA Baseball NTIS, CBC Baseball, President:, Chairman:

I hope this YouTube video helps as well: (Full video available here). 

You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

I have also authored a number of books (eBook and paperback) an topics of baseball that are available on Amazon.

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